600 DUI Cases Fail Due to Expired Breathalyzer Certifications

By Mike

While a driver may be arrested for a DUI, there are several obstacles that the prosecutor must overcome before successfully convicting that driver on official charges.

Potential errors made by police officers during a DUI arrest include failing to follow standard police procedures, conducting an illegal search or seizure, or giving a faulty breathalyzer test.

Errors such as flawed breathalyzer tests can be a legal nightmare for police departments, as evidenced by a recent incident in Kentucky in which several alleged DUI drivers may be set free after the police made a very technical mistake.

According to an investigative report from Louisville’s Courier-Journal, the results from alcohol breath tests that were used against roughly 600 drivers may be inadmissible in court after police discovered that four lab technicians had let their licenses lapse.

In what the local prosecutor called a “very unfortunate situation,” hundreds of breath test results have been challenged because they were performed by lab technicians who were working with expired certifications.

The inadmissibility of these breath tests could lead to dropped cases against hundreds of suspected DUI drivers because the breath tests are often the best evidence police can present against people suspected of drunk driving.

According to a Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, whose cases will be weakened if the breath tests results are thrown out, these tests represent “the single most important piece of evidence at trial.”

He also observed that the results of portable breathalyzer tests, which are used in the field as a first line of detection by police officers, are not admissible in court because of their unreliability.

Thus, police typically rely on blood or breath tests that are administered at the police station after the arrest. These tests, it appears, are much more reliable than the portable units used by police officers.

O’Connell expects that many DUI lawyers will try to reverse convictions for their clients that were supported by faulty tests.

He fears that many convicted drunk drivers may be released, unless state authorities can support their convictions with other compelling evidence, such as video of the driver during the arrest, witness testimony, or the results of field sobriety tests.

And, even if the defendants are able to escape DUI charges, prosecutors may still try to convict them on other charges, like public intoxication, disturbing the peace, alcohol intoxication, and wanton endangerment, none of which require breath tests at trial.

Despite these potential alternatives, though, Louisville police are embarrassed by the incident, which they claim is very rare and hasn’t happened before in Jefferson County.

Of course, while the police and state attorneys may be upset, there are hundreds of suspected drunk drivers in Louisville who can’t believe their good fortune.



Experts Testify on BAC Level in Fatal DUI Trial in New Jersey

By Topher

Experts believe that the man charged in a fatal DUI from 2006 may have had a BAC four times the legal limit, NJ.com is reporting.

On April 20, 2006, a car hit two teenage girls as they walked down the side of a New Jersey road coming back from a movie theater. They were killed, and now the driver of that car faces trial in Morristown, New Jersey.

Medical experts recently testified about the state of the driver in the case, which moved into its fourth day at the time of the testimony. Their determination was that Eugene Baum, who was driving the vehicle that struck the girls, registered a blood-alcohol level of .305, which is four times the legal limit, when measurement was taken several hours after the accident.

Using a technique called “back extrapolation,” another forensic scientist estimated that Baum’s blood-alcohol level could have been as high as .376 at the time of the accident.

The girls, Athear Jafar, 16, and her cousin, Mayada Jafar, 15, were walking down the shoulder of a two-lane road after going to the movies together.

Baum allegedly struck them at dusk while driving his Kia Optima down the road’s shoulder at forty miles per hour. He did not brake, even as he struck the girls. They were terribly wounded past the point of recovery.

Baum faces charges of vehicular homicide and DUI. He could face up to 60 years in prison if he is found guilty.

Baum’s DUI defense centers around complications from treatment for his alcoholism. While he admitted that he was driving the car, he claims that a reaction between prescription medication and alcohol caused him to lose his senses.

A few weeks before the crash, Baum went to the hospital with severe symptoms caused by an attempt to stop drinking alcohol, including withdrawal. He spent three days in the hospital, and when he was discharged he was told to undergo outpatient alcohol detoxification.

Baum was prescribed a drug called Librium when he left the hospital. He claims that he didn’t know he shouldn’t have combined that drug with alcohol consumption, and that he therefore didn’t know the ill effects it would have on his body and his mind, and that he couldn’t know the harm that he might cause.